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Sohail Abbas lays India low

Last updated on: March 06, 2004 22:51 IST

Sohail Abbas flattened India for the second time in as many months.

The drag flick ace, who scored all the goals in Pakistan's 3-2 victory over India in the Azlan Shah Cup in Kuala Lumpur in January, scored four times from the four penalty-corners he took to give Pakistan a 5-3 victory in the men's hockey Olympic qualifying tournament in Madrid on Saturday.

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Rehan Butt accounted for Pakistan's other goal.

Gagan Ajit Singh (2) and Deepak Thakur scored for India, who trailed 1-3 at the breather.

It was India's first defeat from three matches, while Pakistan registered their third win from as many outings in the tournament.

With four points, India, who beat Malaysia and drew with Belgium, lie third in Pool B, behind Pakistan (9 points) and New Zealand (7 points).

The Indian deep defence came up with a good performance overall, but were punished each time they committed a mistake that led to the four penalty-corners.

In the midfield, it was Viren Rasquinha who came up with a truly outstanding performance to inspire his team mates.

Among the forwards, Gagan Ajit Singh was left to patrol the Pakistani circle and posed a serious threat, but a sharper finish from him and his colleagues could have turned the match for India.

The Pakistanis played second fiddle, struggling to get the ball away from their circle. They came up with a few stray raids, and to their good fortune were able to manufacture the penalty-corners they were looking for before unleashing Abbas on the hapless Indians.

India did all the running while Pakistan made better use of the opportunities. That in effect was the trend of play in the first-half.

Undoubtedly, the Indians looked the better team for much of the 35 minutes, but their failure to translate the supremacy into goals proved to be their undoing. Deepak Thakur (twice), Gagan Ajit Singh and Baljit Singh Dhillon, all missed out on scoring chances.

Pakistan were presented their first of two chances in the second minute when an infringement by captain Dilip Tirkey resulted in a penalty-corner that Abbas promptly converted.

The Indians then proceeded to dominate the exchanges. But past the 24th minute, they suffered a setback when full-back Kanwalpreet Singh was sent out on a yellow card suspension after he brought down Butt near the center line.

That stretched the Indian defence to contain the Pakistani forwards.

Pakistan forced their second penalty-corner against the run of play, and Abbas came up with a clever conversion to put Pakistan 2-0 up in the 28th minute.

The Indians, to their credit, kept their composure and pulled one back in the 33rd when Thakur swatted home a deflection off a defender's stick following a hit-in by Gagan Ajit Singh.

However, the Pakistanis retaliated from a fast counter-attack with Nadeem putting Butt through. The last-named got past an advancing goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan and tapped the ball into the goal even as he came a cropper in the 34th minute.

India showed considerable urgency in the second-half, but it was Abbas yet again who converted the third penalty-corner in the 41st minute to give Pakistan a 4-1 advantage.

At this point, India enjoyed their best period of the match when Gagan Ajit scored twice, in the 42nd and 44th minutes, to put his team back in the hunt (3-4).

But then, the Pakistanis came up with the killer punch in the final minutes with Abbas coming good with yet another penalty-corner to virtually finish off the Indians.

In the day's other matches, Belgium held New Zealand 2-2 while Malaysia beat Canada 3-2. 

Malaysia beat Canada, pick first points

Malaysia finally got among the points after scoring a 3-2 victory over Canada in a Pool B match.

Muhammad Amin Rahim converted a penalty stroke in the 67th minute to break a 2-2 deadlock and fetch Malaysia their first win in three games.

The Canadians slid to third straight defeat that could well end their Olympic dream.

Earlier, Canada took the lead from a fourth penalty-corner conversion by Wayne Fernandes, but Malaysia struck twice in a two-minute spell through Jiwa Mohan (25th, penalty-corner) and Boon Huat Chua (27th) for a 2-1 half-time lead.

Canada equalised midway through the second session when Fernandes came good with another penalty-corner before Rahim flicked home a penalty stroke for the match-winner.

Malaysia, having lost to New Zealand and India, put in a far better performance in their bid to secure their first points. But they had to contend with an equally determined Canada who, in fact, could have wrapped up the game in the second session had they not missed a couple of open chances.

The Canadians lent the game a touch of drama when they pulled out goalkeeper Michael Mahood with just a few minutes left and replaced him with Robin D'Abreo, who took position in the goal wearing just a helmet and without the other customary protective gear, like pads and chest guard.

Canada team coach Gene Muller said: "We were 2-3 down and had nothing to lose. So, decided to change the goalkeeper. It was just a tactic."